Swathed by cedar, rhododendron, fir and Himalayan oak trees, the state capital of Himachal Pradesh is one of the most popular hill stations of India. Basking in the grandeur of the British era with apparent influences in its architecture, Shimla did charm the British colonisers of the 19th century so much that they elevated the small township into the summer capital of an empire sprawling the sub-continent.
In its heyday Shimla attracted princes, merchants, diplomats and political leaders from Afghanistan, Tibet, China, Myanmar and other countries. Several heritage buildings in the city are witness to historical moments that have shaped the history of south Asia.
Leaders of the freedom movement led by Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, C. Rajagopalachari and others frequently visited Shimla in their struggle to gain independence from British rule. Hard contested deliberations over the partition of India and Pakistan at Viceregal Lodge, now the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, between the resident Viceroy and leaders of the freedom struggle finally won the country its Independence on 15th August, 1947.
An engineering marvel, the Kalka-Shimla railway line with 102 tunnels constructed between 1898 to 1903 has been recognised by UNESCO as World Heritage mountain railway site. The Ridge and The Mall are still popular landmarks just as they were in the pre-Independence era. The imperial Viceregal Lodge, the graceful Christ Church, Gaiety Theatre, Gorton Castle, Barnes Court and several buildings are part of the colonial architectural heritage of the town.
Languages spoken: English and Hindi are the dominant languages spoken in Shimla. A sizeable minority does speak Punjabi. In addition to these several native dialects of Pahari language are also spoken by the residents of the area.
Clothing essentials: Bearing a temperate climate, cotton clothes with light woolens are worn from April to October. Heavy woollends and jackets are required for the winter which starts to set in from November and lasts upto March. In spring and autumn thin sweaters and hoodies are needed to beat the morning and evening chills.
Air: There are daily flights from Delhi to Shimla Airport at Jubbarhatti, at a distance of 23 kms from the city.
Rail: The Kalka-Shimla rail line with 102 tunnels offers breathtaking view of the terrain as the journey chugs into higher ground. Regular trains ply between Delhi and Kalka from where you can board the Kalka-Shimla train on this UNESCO heritage mountain rail track.
Road: Shimla has good road connectivity. Ordinary and luxury coaches regularly ply between Delhi, Chandigarh and the city. Within the state, private and public transport services are available for Kullu-Manali, Dharamshala and all other small and big towns of the state. Taxi services in the city is available on demand.
Parking: ISBT Shimla, Tutikandi crossing, Lift Parking, Railway Station, Old Bus stand parking, Chhota Shimla Parking, Sanjauli Parking.
|Places to visit||Distances from Shimla (Km)|
|Indian Institute of Advanced Study||4|
|Jakhoo Temple||2.5 Km via Ridge and 6 Km via Circular Road.|
The curiosity of a traveller to explore all that the district has to offer is relentless because of the comforting climate and the picturesque sights, wherever one sets eyes on. There are some must visit tourist attractions in and around Shimla that one should visit.
The large open space that runs east to west alongside The Mall Road is the cultural hub of the city. On a clear day or after a light rain, the views of snow peaks of Himalayan ranges to the north are spectacular. The neo-gothic towering architecture of the Christ Church, the state library in the vicinity, the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, the slate roofline of Gaiety Theater and the Town Hall are important landmarks on The Ridge. An underground reservoir build in the 1880s is still one of the major storage for meeting the cities everyday water needs.
The Mall Road
As a business center, The Mall is the main street of the hill station. Running parallel but lower to The Ridge, this shopping arcade is dotted with modern day showrooms, departmental stores and hip restaurants. The front side of Gaiety Theater and Town Hall buildings are on this street. Himachal Emporium at the west end of the arcade sells locally made handicrafts and handloom products. Scandal Point, the place where The Ridge and The Mall converge, is a good place to catch up with the day’s news and gossip.
When completed in 1888, the Viceregal Lodge was one of the most flamboyant and one of first electric buildings of India. Build by architect Henry Irwin, the overall appearance of the imposing structure is that of a Scottish castle. Much history has unfolded in this building and one room still retains the table where the boundaries of Pakistan was cut out from India.
After Independence the building became a part of Presidential Estate and was subsequently donated by President S Radhakrishnan for promoting higher education. It now houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies. Parts of the Lodge are open to visit for people of all ages.
This glade is the largest stretch of level ground in Shimla and has been used for holding fairs, horse races, playing polo, golf, tennis, cricket and football matches. It was in 1888 at Annandale that the Durand Football Tournament was first held. The picturesque place is approached by a sharp descent. Mainly used as a helipad these days, there is a golf course and an Army Heritage Museum at Annandale that is worth a visit.
Overlooking the hill station at 2,445 meters altitude, Jakhoo Hill is Shimla city’s acme and home to Lord Hanuman. The daunting half-an-hour uphill climb from The Ridge finally ends at Jakhoo Temple. Ropeway service to Jakhoo temple is also available.
At a walkable distance from Summer Hill are the Chadwick Falls, best visited during the rainy season that lasts from July to September. The natural waterfall makes for pleasant viewing.
Tara Devi Temple
A newly built wood and stone temple with slate roofing in traditional hill architecture style sits atop the ridge at the east edge of Tara Devi hill. The 360 degree panoramic views from here are a commanding sight. On auspicious days, the temple offers a free community lunch hosted by devotees. A curling uphill drive from the highway at Shoghi takes you to this temple that houses goddess Tara Devi. In addition one can visit Tara Devi Temple through a trek starting from Tara Devi station.
Kali Bari Temple
Built by a Bengali brahmin in 1845, Kali Bari temple dedicated to the evil slaying goddess Kali is at a walking distance from The Mall Road. Since its foundation, the temple has been a much visited prayer house for the town’s Hindus and the visiting Bengali community.
Sankat Mochan Temple
Just as one enters Shimla, at a short downhill detour from the highway near Tara Devi hill is Sankat Mochan. The temple here dedicated to Lord Hanuman manifest as a trouble solver deity was built in 1950. From the city center, the temple is at a distance of 5 kms. On Tuesdays and Sundays, round the year, there is a free community lunch open to all at the temple that is hosted by the devotees.
A rich cultural legacy with a diverse heritage and local traditions, Shimla celebrates life with local fairs and festivals that have a charm of their own.
Ice Skating Carnival
With the onset of winter in November, water begins to freeze at the ice skating ground located at a lower elevation on the northern slope from The Ridge. This has the winter sport loving tribe of ice skaters all excited. The ice skating season lasts upto February and at around the Christmas – New Year festive week, a lively ice skating carnival is held at this open air rink.
Celebrating the city’s lifestyle, Summer Festival held in the month of May/June invites tourists and locals to have a jolly good time with dance, music and other activities of interest. The festival holds a variety of programs which include flower shows, painting and photography exhibitions, book festivals and power packed cultural evenings. Star entertaining actors share the stage with budding local talent.
Held after the year’s harvest, Lavi is a historic trade fair held every year on November 11 with much fanfare for three days at Rampur Bushair in Sutlej valley. Stalls are set up at open places in the town and traders from near and far do brisk business in selling local produce, handicrafts, handloom products and other manufactured goods.
Kinnauri woolens – garments, wool, pashmina, shawls, handwoven tweeds, metalware, pottery, jewellery, crunchy apples, Kinnauri horses, the dry fruits like chilgoza, walnuts, almonds and dried apricots are high demand products at Lavi. The evenings are given to cultural performances where the crowds are entertained to lively music with a popular star usually putting in a show.
The Sipi fair is an annual event held at Mashobra, near Shimla, in May. The fair commemorates Sipi Devta, the local deity. Activities such as archery, cultural programmes and acrobatics are the highlights at this fair.
Held every year in April on the bank of River Pabbar at Rohru, the summer fair is held in honour of Shikru Devta, the local deity. The fair is marked by cultural performances of local dances and trading in local produce and products. The fair attracts buyers from neighbouring parts of the region also.
Weather in Shimla is cold in winters, moderate in spring and autumn and mildly warm in summers. The hill station is a year round destination with many visiting the place in winters from December-February to experience magical snowfalls and in summer from April to June for its cool climes. Spring in March and the fall months of September to November have a charm of their own. The rising of curling mists during the rainy season of July and August give the hills a very romantic setting.
Popular with all kinds of visitors, Shimla has its fair share of fine dining places, prompt medical services and good connectivity options that provide the best available facilities to those visiting the place.
The hill station has variety of eating places where the essence of the city comes wrapped with warm hospitality of the locals. Most of the restaurants, eateries and food joints are located along the Mall Road.
Indian Coffee House
A stone throw from Scandal Point on The Mall Road, the Indian Coffee House is a much frequented eatery that has been patronized by many political leaders, writers and artists. The lingering fragrance of south Indian cuisines and filter coffee mark the essence of this iconic old fashioned cafe.
The city is equipped with excellent medical facilities honed by the State’s premier hospital located in the city center. Indira Gandhi Medical Hospital provides state-of-the-art healthcare services and is only a walking distance from The Mall Road. Other private medical clinics and hospitals in the city cater to the medical needs of residents and tourists.
|Tourist Information Centre, Shimla||0177-2654589, 2832498|
|Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Shimla||0177-2625924, 2625864, 2625511|
|HPTDC’s Marketing Office, Shimla||0177-2652561/2658302|
Craignano Nature Park, Mashobra
On the outskirts of Shimla city, Craignano Nature Park is the perfect place to unwind in the lap of a heavenly abode. The quiet get away prides in having a tulip garden which in bloom around March-April turns the place blissful. In its seclusion the garden offers tranquillity and serenity, setting bottled up emotions free.
The nature park at a distance of 16 Km from the city is on a diversion road for Mashobra from the Shimla-Naldehra road.
Himalayan Nature Park, Kufri
Idyllic for a wildlife enthusiast who rejoices the splendour of nature, Himalayan Nature Park, Kufri is a must visit place. Home to more than 180 species of birds and animals, this nature park is a reflection of the wildlife found in the Himalayas. The nature park at kufri is 16 Km from Shimla.
Fun World, Kufri
On your escapade to the mountains having fun activities in the lap of imposing Himalayan ranges around is a much cherished experience. At an altitude of 2,800 meters, Fun World in Kufri takes pride in having the highest go-kart track, along with other engaging activities that’ll be rejoiced forever.
Kufri Fun World is adjacent to the NH 05 on Shimla-Fagu road at a distance of just 18 km from the main city.
At an altitude of 2,872 meters, the mountain top Shali Tibba Temple has a 360 degree view of the high peaks around and the deep valleys in the foreground. Dedicated to goddess Bhima Kali, the divine place can only be reached after a gruelling uphill trek from Khatnol village. To reach Khatnol one can board a local bus or hire a taxi. From Shimla to Khatnol the road distance is 45 km.
A vast expansive meadow surrounded by a dark deodar forest has enchanted travellers and residents for generations. Lord Curzon, the viceroy of India from 1898 to 1905, even named his daughter Naldehra after this scenic spot. The place has a 18-hole golf course. A nature walk which traverses uphill, offers very scenic views that are complemented by the emulsifying fragrance of the woods and bird chirpings. There is a frequent local bus service to Naldehra and taxis can also be hired. From the city Naldehra is 23 kms away.
Hatu Peak, Narkanda
Towering over Sutlej valley, Hatu Peak at 3400 meters altitude is one of the highest peaks among the hills near Shimla. Though a motorable road has been constructed, but an uphill walk through the woods from Narkanda is a better experience of the hills. Atop the mountain, a temple dedicated to demon slaying goddess Kali exhibits the local architecture and wood craftsmanship skills. The 360 degree views from the mountain top are deep and expansive making the trek a worthy one. A level walk through a dense oak forest opens onto Jaw Bagh, an alpine meadow, which only adds to the scenic value of the getaway. To reach Hatu, one has to do a road journey to Narkanda, a distance of 64 km from Shimla. From Narkanda one needs to take a taxi or do a 8 km trek through forest country to the mountain top destination.
Bhimakali Temple, Sarahan
Commemorating the all powerful Hindu goddess Bhimakali, this hill fortress styled multi-storied temple complex stands out for its architectural brilliance. Located in the heart of scenic Sarahan, the place has a up close view of perennially snow covered towering peaks. The temple is a highly revered one and many pilgrims do visit it round the year. Public and private transport coaches regularly ply to Saharan. For more comfort a taxi can be availed from Shimla to undertake the 180 km journey.
On the right bank of Pabbar river, at a distance of about 100 km from Shimla, Hatkoti with its green paddy fields and almond orchards is a very scenic place. There is also a stone temple complex dedicated to the warrior Goddess Durga built with local materials in an architectural style typical of the valley. Public and private transport buses regularly ply on the Shimla to Rohru route, making a halt at Hatkoti to drop and pick up passengers. Taxis can be availed from Shimla or Rohru to get to Hatkoti.